January 1, 2018
Alfred Lord Tennyson, in a poem entitled In Memoriam [Ring out, wild Bells] contemplated the change of the old year and the hope of a new year in these words:
Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.
Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:
The year is going, let him go:
Ring out the false, ring in the true.
Many people use the New Years as a time to “ring out the old” and “ring in the new” by setting New Year’s Resolutions. However, many people don’t take the time to plan how to achieve these goals; others set goals that are so lofty that it is hard to actually achieve the New Year’s Resolutions. To achieve a goal, preparation is necessary. Allow me to outline some steps for readers to consider for a successful completion their New Year’s Resolutions.
COMPLETING THE OLD – 2017
Step One is to - Complete the Old of 2017 - look at the areas of your life in 2017, and examine and review your wins, gains, and breakthroughs. Our culture teaches us to ignore or downplay our successes. Yet this can hinder progress. According to Kristin Neff, part of self-compassion is to define, without judgment, our achievements and accomplishments. This allows us to acknowledge our common humanity with a greater viewpoint towards our difficulties and limitations. Another important consideration is to assess the difficulties of the past year. What events were frustrating or disappointing? Describe these disappointments without judgment and with self-compassion. Instead of saying, “I’m such a loser for not achieving such and such goal,” a more self-compassionate response would be, “I didn’t achieve that goal.” State the facts without contempt or disapproval. Without the judgment, the brain is better able to work with you rather than against you.
As you are assessing your past year, consider aspects of career, friends, family, drug use, alcohol use, physical health, emotional well-being, mental health, spirituality, and cognitive abilities. Feel free to consider other aspects of your life as well. Ask yourself questions like these.
- What were the successes?
- What were the wins?
- What would you want to improve?
- How did I achieve my goals?
- What impeded me achieving my goals?
Take some time to consider what it means for you to be healthy and whole. Also, consider if and when you may want to move on from where you are. Ask yourself, what are the two or three things that you want to change? It is better to achieve one or two goals than to set too many goals and end up discouraged.
The second step of “completing the old” is to identify five or six important lessons that you have learned during 2017. These lessons will set a foundation for success for the New Year. As you think of your “lessons learned” remember that you will want to consciously use these lessons in the coming year. Here are some examples of things you may have learned:
- I learned to accept and let go of the circumstances in my life
- I learned to proactively manage my finances
- I learned the importance of being genuine
- I learned that I can skip/delete/avoid some habits that no longer serve me.
Take some time and be with these lessons. Embrace these wins and write them down. Keep these descriptions of your wins in a place that you can refer to them often.
CREATING THE NEW – 2018
In order to – Create the New of 2018 - imagine ahead to December 31, 2018, and write a list of your wins, gains, and breakthroughs for 2018. Be specific and write them as though they have already happened or they happen routinely (for example, “I have a lucrative and satisfying career” or “I live a healthful lifestyle”). Look at each area of your life and make the list as long as you like. Take some time and look at this list. Think of some of the steps you might be able to take to make it happen. Ask yourself how it feels knowing you have succeeded in 2018.
The second step of - Creating the New of 2018 - is to name the year to come. Develop a name that will reflect the imaginings of your heart, based on your list of wins for 2018. Be creative, poetic, and imaginative as you name the successes of 2018. You may want to use the first letter of your first name to describe the New Year. So if your name is Susan, and you want to be more compassionate to others, you may call the year Sensitive, Supportive, or Sympathetic. Another way of naming the year is to describe in more detail your stated desires. Some examples: The Year of Being Supportive. The Year of No Kidding! The Year of Life is Delicious. The Year of Loving and Healthy Relationships.
This creative process is yours! Enjoy the focus and joy it brings to the New Year and the opportunity it provides to consciously create your life.
Finally, use the SMART goal system to create two or three achievable and realistic goals for the New Year. Use the SMART Plan of Goal Setting to create a plan for the New Year.
- Specific - Make specific goals, rather than general goals. “I am going to lose 15 pounds,” is more specific than “I am going to lose weight”
- Measurable - Outline the measurable things you will do to achieve your goals (I will eat a healthy breakfast, exercise six days per week, and drink only three cans of soda per week).
- Accountability - Decide on a plan that will help you to be responsible and accountable (I will weigh myself on Wednesday’s and Sunday’s and keep a log of my weight. I will have my friend, mother, spouse, be an accountability partner, and check-in once a week with them and describe my successes and disappointments)
- Realistic -Include a plan to insure your plan is feasible. (I will meet with my doctor and share these goals, to make sure that I am being safe in my weight loss.)
- Timeline - What is the time period that you intend to have this goal achieved by? (I will have lost 15 pounds by October 15, 2018)
By reviewing previous successes and disappointments, and describing these with self-compassion it is more likely to have success as you set reasonable goals for the New Year. Happy Goal Setting and Happy Goal Achieving!
R. David Johns has a PhD in Counseling Education and Supervision, and a Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. He is a Licensed Professional Counselor (LPC) and Licensed Addiction Counselor (LAC) in the state of Colorado. As a counselor and therapist he works with people to better understand how to achieve reasonable goals with self-compassion. For an appointment call 303-642-6636 or email at [email protected]
Neff, K. D. (2009). The role of self-compassion in development: A healthier way to relate to oneself. Human development , 52 (4), 211-214.
Tennyson. A. L. (In Memoriam, [Ring out, wild bells]. Retrieved from